Self-talk is that seemingly never-ending stream of thoughts running through our minds all day (and sometimes all night) long.
A memory from years past may pop up, making us feel guilty or silly. A harsh comment spoken by someone we admire or care about can resurface for no reason.
When we get older and wiser, we tend to ruminate over our mistakes and overanalyze the cringe-worthy moments of our past.
This inner dialogue, or mental chatter, is soaked in negativity, because we naturally lean into negative thinking. It’s normal that this happens, but we may start to experience both short-term and long-term negative effects if we give this chatter too much influence. The power of it can impact our productivity, confidence, and self-esteem.
The happiest and most successful people in the world aren’t exempt from experiencing this constant stream of negative self-talk.
The only difference in people is that some choose to cultivate and control the weight they give these thoughts, while others stand as passersby, letting the negative emotions and words swallow them whole. We can even begin to invent entire histories, memories, and narratives around these thoughts, which can impact what we do and don’t take action on in our present and future.
No easy “off” switch exists. However, through treatment, therapy, and meditation, we can retrain our minds to calm and silence the inner monologue when our logical side signals us that it isn’t serving us in a positive manner.
After a few months of daily practice, you may be surprised at how much more confident and at ease you feel, having all of this control right at your fingertips (of course, it was there all along, unaccessed.)
At Grouport, we use an array of techniques to battle negative self-talk, primarily CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). In CBT, an individual learns unique coping strategies and techniques to better respond to negative thinking patterns and feelings that consistently affect their mood.
Knowing the impact of negative self-talk, learning to accept thoughts without always believing them, and practicing mindfulness and self-kindness are key elements to rewiring your brain and taking back control over your inner judge.
Know the Impact
What types of consequences can we experience if we let negative self-talk take the wheel too often?
Weight control issues, a lack of stress management, and a weakened output of mental and physical performance are just a few examples of the aspects of our lives that can take a tumble.
The Alzheimer's & Dementia journal published a study in June of 2020, linking negative thought patterns to brain changes. They found that older adults who engaged in repeated negative thinking were more likely to experience memory problems.
A couple common self-talk traps are the “all-or-nothing” thinking or the “jumping to conclusions” thinking. By identifying when we participate in negative thinking, we can decide whether our patterns and storylines are really helping us live our most fulfilling lives.
Accepting, But Not Believing, All Thoughts
A misconception we have about banishing negative thoughts is that we just need to replace them with positive thoughts.
This is like a fad diet to lose weight. Sure, it might work as a quick fix for a day or even a few months, but true, lasting change happens when we decide to alter the relationship we have with the negative thoughts.
A huge sense of freedom comes from knowing we are the ones adding meaning and labels to every thought we have, and we don’t have to. In fact, it’s destructive to our mental health!
A thought doesn’t have to be good or bad, black or white. It’s funny how we can remind ourselves a dream is just a dream and not to take it seriously or look too much into it, but we don’t automatically give ourselves that same advice about our thoughts.
The Stoics believed in “Amor Fati”, which means to not only accept one’s fate, but to love one’s fate. In other words, welcome everything that happens to you with grace.
Instead of trying to run away from negative thoughts or drown them out with positive ones, we should observe our thoughts objectively, and then wave them goodbye as they go.
Being Kind to Yourself
A great way to combat negative thoughts is to reaffirm your self-respect by being kind to yourself.
Without compassion for your own individual mind and body, you will go through life in defensive mode, protecting yourself not only from others, but from yourself most of all.
As important as it is for us to push ourselves to be better, to set goals, and to keep our promises to ourselves, it’s just as important for us to be flexible, forgive ourselves, and let go of self-judgement.
We are all going to make mistakes. After all, suffering is a part of the human experience. That is why group therapy is so beneficial - we are in it together. The suffering and the growth. By practicing mindfulness and self-compassion we can avoid the sabotage that comes from letting our inner critic become too powerful.
At Grouport, we believe practicing positive thinking through mindful group therapy is a lot easier with people who all want to work on themselves, together.
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November 30, 2021